April 19, 2019

SAD 31 to discuss superintendent

HOWLAND – The SAD 31 board of directors will meet Thursday to discuss its probe into Superintendent William Ziemer’s fitness and to determine whether he will keep his job, school officials said Monday.

The report of the two-month investigation done by attorney Edwin Snyder will be reviewed by the board in executive session. The special meeting is due to begin at 7 p.m. at Penobscot Valley High School.

Although the board has a meeting scheduled for Dec. 15, the board needs to meet this week to discuss the investigation, interim Superintendent Ann Bridge said.

“It’s going to be a meeting of some length, and we already have a full agenda for the meeting of the 15th,” Bridge said Monday. “We also have to work with all of the schedules of the people involved.”

Ziemer has been on indefinite paid leave since Oct. 4, when the board voted, in a split vote, to suspend him and launch an investigation into his fitness. The board was prompted by 700 residents who signed a petition asking the Maine Department of Education to determine Ziemer’s fitness.

The state investigators said the political infighting, lack of leadership and communication breakdowns with the board and the school system were enough to threaten SAD 31’s state approval, which in turn could threaten the state funding provided to the system.

Investigators said the infighting and poor communications forced them to recommend to Maine Department of Education Commissioner Susan Gendron that SAD 31’s approval rating with the state be changed from “approved” to “provisional approval.”

Yet Snyder has said that he would not make any use of a state review team’s report, which was released Nov. 17, because his was an independent probe. The state report was critical of Ziemer’s leadership and what it called a lack of leadership, communication and focus within SAD 31, particularly at Penobscot Valley High School.

Snyder has interviewed about 35 residents, school staff, administrators and SAD 31 board members, he said. He could not be reached for comment Monday.

When reached at his home in Dresden, Ziemer said he wanted to wait to see what Snyder says and the board rules.

“I will be at the meeting, but I think I had better not [speak] until the board has a chance to act,” Ziemer said. “I don’t think it’s fair to put out a lot of professional perspectives at this point. This is a report that was commissioned by the board, and they have to read it and see what they want to do.”

Ziemer’s one-year tenure has been marked by controversy since the state refused to pay for a new high school. SAD 31 was told to develop a consolidation plan with SAD 67 to provide secondary education, but consolidation talks have died. Some critics opposed to consolidation have targeted Ziemer.

The board’s vote Thursday will come at a critical time, with school administrators under Bridge gearing up to present the state with a proposal to build a new high school. It is as yet unclear whether that effort will involve renovating PVHS or building a new structure to replace it, and Bridge is due to leave her job on or about Jan. 1.

Board members have not seen Snyder’s report, Chairwoman Beth Turner said.

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